Qualcomm’s President Cristiano Amon has announced the Snapdragon 700 Series, a new line of mobile processors that will fill the gap between the Snapdragon 600 and 800 series dedicated to mid-range and high-end phones. The 800-Series has been running for many years, with the latest incarnation being Snapdragon 845, as found in the Samsung Galaxy S9, the Sony XZ2 and the Asus Zenfone 5Z. All three were introduced this week at MWC 2018.
The Snapdragon 700 is particularly desirable for OEMs at a moment when many of them are trying to introduce phones priced around $450-$550 (Premium Tiers) to raise their ASP (average selling prices) and profits. The Snapdragon 600-Series is great for $300-$400 phones, but in my opinion, the performance gap with the 800-series is too large (even Snapdragon 821, which is two generations behind).
Snapdragon 800-Series are often used in high-end smartphones that cost anywhere from $650 to $1000+, although there are notable exceptions from brands like OnePlus, Xiaomi or ASUS, which are famous for finding a great balance between features and prices.
Despite bringing very interesting modem and OS/software updates to the market, 600-Series phones often felt a bit underpowered in the higher price range, whether it is graphics or CPU speed. We have noticed this in our phone reviews. Snapdragon 700 should provide the necessary performance/price ratio so OEMs can provide a line of products that scales smoothly.
We will run benchmarks at a later time, but Qualcomm says that we should expect a performance increase of 30% between the best 600 chip (Snapdragon 660) and the first Snapdragon 700. That makes sense, and Qualcomm can certainly build the hardware to hit exactly this level of performance. There will be support for many features of Snapdragon 845, including AI computing and Quick Charge 4.0.
Advanced photo processing increasingly relies on a combination of powerful ISP (Image Processing Processor), DSP (Digital Signal Processor) and even GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) that the Snapdragon 600-Series was not originally aiming at. These capabilities can be put in service to accomplish noise reduction, low-light enhancements thanks to computational photography.
Being gaming-capable or VR/AR friendly is also a trait that Premium phone should have. Snapdragon 700 could be much better at that, without breaking the bank. We’ll have to wait and see.
The good news for consumers is that the second half of 2018 will yield a new crop of Snapdragon 700 powered phones that have high-end features, but much more affordable price. At the same time, Qualcomm can push technologies faster (including 5G) into the consumer space.